Navarra y Rocaful, Melchor de (1626–1691)

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Navarra y Rocaful, Melchor de (1626–1691)

Melchor de Navarra y Rocaful (duke of Palata), born in Aragon, was one of the most energetic and innovative but ultimately unsuccessful administrators of colonial Peru. As viceroy, from 1681 to 1689, Palata focused on reorganizing indigenous communities in order to increase tribute income and to maximize the mita, the state labor levy. Concerned with the continued decline in the mining industry, Palata initiated a series of proposals to stimulate production. He also undertook a major review of labor practices within the viceroyalty aimed at stabilizing the work force and combating the chronic shortfalls in the mita. Palata ordered a comprehensive census of indigenous society that would include individuals living within or outside of the communities through which their tribute and labor should be paid. Palata issued a series of orders designed to eliminate the protected status of various groups of Indians (such as forasteros and vanaconas) who were avoiding their obligations to the Crown. Under the Palata reforms, the reducción (resettlement) system of the 1570s was effectively abandoned and Indians then required to pay tribute and serve mita duty through the communities in which they currently resided.

Palata's efforts were ultimately frustrated by resistance from those who benefited from private arrangements with these Indians—employers (particularly miners in Upper Peru), clergy, and some indigenous community leaders—and from Indian communities as well. When the Palata reform proposals threatened these arrangements and increased indigenous migration from areas subjected to mita demands, he was forced to abandon his program. The new tribute and labor assessments were first reduced and then revoked by Palata's successor, the count of Monclova. In 1691, his administration came to an end: He sailed for Spain to become president of the Council of Aragon but died en route on April 13.

See alsoMita; Portocarrero y Lasso de la Vega, Melchor; Viceroyalty, Viceroy.


Jeffrey A. Cole, The Potosí Mita, 1573–1700: Compulsory Indian Labor in the Andes (1985).

Ann M. Wightman, Indigenous Migration and Social Change: The Forasteros of Cuzco, 1570–1720 (1990), esp. pp. 9-44.

                                Ann M. Wightman